Gas Mileage

I Was a Frustrated Customer at Car Showrooms, but Made the Obvious Decision

By Larry Teller

Being a patriot who wants to do right by our still-struggling economy, I recently started looking for a new car. Well, to be honest, approaching another summer without car air conditioning didn’t delight.

The car I was replacing was 17 years old and, beside no A/C, had gradually lost other non-essential but nice-to-have features: FM and eventually AM radio, keyless door locks, two door locks (but, shucks, no one would steal the car), speed control and intermittent wipers. I’d figured in recent years, what’s the difference? I’m only driving six miles roundtrip to a commuter train. And, besides, the huge trunk provided a handy way to take my bike for repairs; the car was paid for; the insurance was cheap; it reminded me of the sweet day we drove our baby daughter home from the hospital; my friend the mechanic was always eager to fix things; I’m not wild about car salesmen……

It’s been, thankfully, years since I walked into a showroom. Do you, too, dread the experience, beginning with the sweet greeting, followed inexorably by the required question “What do I have to do to sell you a car TODAY?” My specs were simple at the three places I visited: compact car, four cylinders with good gas mileage, comfortable seats, several safety gizmos, any color but black or white, and—here’s the feature that, I learned at all three places, was the root cause of conflict—but I just felt I deserved: heated seats.

Here’s what I learned, unhappily: in order to buy heated seats, you must buy a “weather package,” which is available only on higher “trim” versions, which only come with a larger engine (and also requires, in the fancier trim package, a moon roof which I can happily live without), which has lower gas mileage, which was one of my most important criteria.

So, the frustrating choice the car companies shrewdly force us to confront is whether keeping our tushes toasty on those freezing Monday mornings is worth spending an extra $3,000 (the weather package and higher trim line) and losing, at least in the three compact cars I considered, 2-3 miles per gallon (“EPA estimated—your actual gas mileage may vary.”).

I hope it’s obvious from this tale how I resolved this showroom conflict. How would you?

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Saving Gas and the Environment

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.

At a recent neighborhood block party (Happy 2nd Birthday Skylar!), when a new neighbor found out that I am the Energy Advisor in the Dallas regional office for EPA, she asked, “What can I do to save gas this summer?” I imagine that is a popular concern with a lot of folks today. It is hard to keep track of the fuel prices when they are changing so rapidly, including several times a week.

Here are some basic “best practices” to reduce your gas usage as well as the vehicle emissions that contribute to ozone problems and climate change. You may have seen some of the tips elsewhere, but I can attest that putting them consistently into action will benefit your financial as well as environmental well-being.

It may sound simplistic, but reducing the amount you drive each week is a major step. Take advantage of local non-driving options like walking or biking for short distance trips or increase your use mass transit or neighborhood carpooling. A couple of things that I have done include using the most efficient vehicle in our household whenever possible. It only takes a small effort to organize trips to eliminate multiple individual trips. For example, last weekend I was able to plan my Saturday errands in a circuit (home improvement store, pet supply warehouse, dry cleaners and grocery) so that I moved from place to place rather than making multiple trips over the same part of town.

How you drive can impact your efficiency too. Maintaining your car or truck by getting the engine tuned-up on schedule, replacing the air filter, and checking the pressure in your tires are good practices. Personally, unloading excess weight like those boxes of charity donations (not the spare tire or needed safety equipment) from the trunk was helpful in improving my mileage. Finally, watching your speed will greatly enhance your efficiency and ensure that you arrive safely.

It is all about reducing the number of miles you travel and then watching how you drive when it is necessary. For more tips, check out the EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality Web site.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.